Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
West Papuans have joined the people of Vanuatu in mourning the loss of independence and human rights campaigner Pastor Allen Nafuki who died at the weekend aged 72.
As well as campaigning for Vanuatu’s independence from Britain and France in the 1970s, Pastor Nafuki also embraced the West Papuan struggle for freedom from Indonesia.
Born in 1950 on the remote island of Erromango, when Vanuatu was still New Hebrides, Pastor Nafuki also served as a politician and was chairman of the Vanuatu Christian Council.
He and dedicated to the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement.
“Reverend Nafuki is a father, shepherd and figure of truth for both Vanuatu and West Papua,” said executive director Markus Haluk of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).
Pastor Nafuki received his theological education in Madang, Papua New Guinea, in the years of struggle before PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975.
While studying in Madang, Pastor Nafuki learned a lot about the “suffering and struggles of his brothers and sisters in West Papua”, Haluk said in a statement today.
Advocacy for West Papuans
Since then the pastor had been called to fight for the struggle of his brothers in the western part of the island of New Guinea.
“Since his seminary study in the early 1970s, in Madang, he fell in love with the people and the struggle for the independence of West Papua. That’s why for more than 40 years he has fought and spoken for Papuan independence in Vanuatu,” he said.
“Reverend Allan is one of the pillars of a Free Papua in Vanuatu. As chairman of the Free West Papua Unity Committee, he always led actions and lobbying for a Free West Papua in various forums in Vanuatu, Melanesia and the Pacific,” said Haluk.
He said the death was a great loss for the two nations – and for Melanesia and the Pacific.
However, he believes that in future “young Nafukis” will appear in in the region who will boldly and consistently speak about the suffering and struggles of their brothers and sisters in West Papua.
Haluk said he hoped the West Papuan prayers would be answered by the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders “opening up their hearts” to accept ULMWP as a full member at its conference on June 15-17.
Celebrating Nafuki’s legacy
In another statement, the ULMWP’s interim president Benny Wenda said: “This is a great loss – but we also celebrate his legacy. He helped combine the destiny of the people of West Papua with the Republic of Vanuatu.”
Wenda said Pastor Nafuki had helped bring about Papuan unity in 2014.
“Never in the history of our struggle have we achieved this unity before. With his courage and dedication, we managed to unite and have brought West Papua closer than ever to the Melanesian family.”
ULMWP representatives will attend the funeral in Vanuatu.
Reported by a correspondent of Asia Pacific Report.